Monday, February 4, 2008

Condom Ads

Inquirer opinion columnist Patricia Evangelista comes out with guns a-blazing with her recent column “Selling Sex”. The Pro-Life group is lobbying against condom advertisements, while Ms. Evangelista is picking up the cudgels for the advertisers.

Here are some excerpts from her column:

“Pro-Life Philippines’ Edgardo Sorreta says that these commercials “violate the innocence of the young, as their impressionistic minds are subconsciously formed on wrong values on sex.” Again, who determines what “the right values” are on sex? Sorreta and his group assume that they have a monopoly on morality, and that their perceptions and judgments are the perceptions and judgments of the millions who watch television. It follows, by their own limited perspectives, that because they perceive artificial contraception to be evil, others must be denied the right to this choice.”

I think I get her perspective, and supposedly she feels that hers is a broader perspective compared to the “limited perspectives” of Pro-Life Philippines. She asks who determines the “right values”, as if the values must of necessity be reflective of the “perceptions and judgements of the millions who watch television”. And just how many of these "millions" support her view? Regardless, I will conclude that her perspective of morality is a relativist/pluralist one, a morality that moves with the times, based on the “right to choice” of many. As Christian morality is based on natural and divine law, whereas Ms. Evangelista proclaims a relativist view, she can never see eye-to-eye with the Pro-Life group. I now ask if she ever conducted a survey of these millions who watch TV, and if not, who did. She accuses Sorreta and his group of assuming, not realizing that she herself assumes in an unwarranted manner that the “perceptions and judgment of millions” (she didn't say majority or minority) are different. If she is really a moral relativist/ pluralist then I say: statistics please.

Ms. Evangelista goes on:
"The argument that condom commercials lead to sexual activity presupposes several things. It assumes that young people live in a vacuum devoid of the influences of school, the pressures of home, hormones and the daily onslaught of popular culture. There are no studies to prove this, but statistics do show this—that as of 2002, 23 percent of young Filipinos, ages 15-24 (about 4 million) have had premarital sex. Eighty percent of these sexually active youth said they did not use any form of protection, and 75 percent of their most recent sexual experiences were unprotected. I cannot believe that this predisposition for sexual activity is due to the sight of a young couple choosing condom flavors at a drugstore (in the case of Frenzy condoms) or due to Winnie Cordero interviewing a doctor about Trust condoms."

Ah, NOW she cites statistics, albeit not citing her sources, but the figures appear to go against her earlier argument. By her own figures, those who need condom advertisements seem to be in the minority, these are the “millions” of others she alludes to in her previous paragraph. The message is that since 23 percent of young Filipinos engage in premarital sex anyway, viola, we need condom commercials. I see. If so, do we have a study which surveyed the other 77 percent who did not engage in premarital sex at all? Were they worse off? Unfortunately(?) for these 77 percent they were not publicly bombarded by condom ads, most probably they were simply educated by their parents on the value of responsible commitments and marriage. This is bad? Would public condom advertisements decrease or increase the percentage of young Filipinos indulging in premarital sex? For one thing, I don't see condom advertisements reducing the incidence of premarital sex. With condom ads left and right, will the young Filipinos be happier? When, today or tomorrow? I know of people who will definitely be happy though: the condom manufacturers. Again, is this good or bad? Oh, maybe the answer is relative...Ms. Evangelista would again probably insist on "right to choice" - conveniently ignoring there are parents who choose that their children NOT be exposed wantonly to these condom ads.

Ms Evangelista concludes by saying:
"Conservative groups are asking the courts to ban condom advertising—essentially depriving many citizens of their only source of information on condom use, and the right to make responsible choices. That, for me, mocks the public’s sensibilities."

The premise here is that advertising is the ONLY source of information for condom use - why deprive people of condom ads? Huh? In this day and age? To borrow her line of thinking, this "assumes that young people live in a vacuum" devoid of any source of information other than commercial advertising. Besides, when I think of deprivation, I think of deprivation in terms of food, clothing, shelter,...but deprivation of condom ads?? She makes it sound like condom advertising is a basic public service, when in fact it's a purely commercial exercise. Anyway, the right to make responsible choices remain, with or without condom advertising.

Life is full of choices. I wonder though what she means by “responsible choices”.


Anonymous said...

How dare the Catholic Church in the Philippines!

Posted in Commentaries, Editorial, Formal Essay, Formal Short Essay, National Concerns, Social Commentary with tags AIDS, Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, Condom, Contraception, Department of Health, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippines, Roman Catholic Church, Sexually Transmitted Infection, World Health Organization on August 31, 2008 by John Ryan Recabar

Polo Gomez, 43, wore a crown of needles holding what he said was his own HIV-infected blood during a protest against the increasing prices of AIDS treatment, in Mexico City, on June 18, 2008. Mexico City which hosted the International AIDS Conference.

“He’s only 22, very young, but spends all his remaining time in the government hospital,” my Thai friend told me in halting English.

“If only he had been careful.” I said.

Somebody who is as young, as inexperienced as that friend of a friend doesn’t deserve to die, only if he practiced safe sex or altogether abstained from having sex. But knowing that the latter is difficult, if not impossible to do, he could have opted for protected sex.

He contracted the disease amid Thailand’s rigorous campaign to use condom as protection from AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections .

From 1984 to 2007 in the Philippines, the number of registered cases reported was 3,061, with 2,754 persons still alive. But according to the Department of Health and the World Health Organization, the actual figure could be higher, accounting for unreported cases since the stigma of having AIDS causes those with the disease to die in silence or infect unknowingly their partners. In 2007, these two health agencies estimated that there are around 7,490 people living with HIV in the Philippines, an increase of 1500 from the 6,000 estimate in 2002.

In an article published on the Philippine Daily Inquirer entitled ‘Change in behavior, not condoms, will stem AIDS’. dated August 28, 2008, Pangasinan Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Commission on Family and Life, said promoting the use of condoms would be “dangerous and ineffective.”

He was reacting to a statement by Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde, who said last week condom use was one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of AIDS and HIV.

Also, two senators—Edgardo Angara and Pia Cayetano—have called on the government to strengthen laws on AIDS prevention and control, including more seriously educating the public on how to avoid it by using protection, such as condoms.

But Aniceto relayed the view of the Church in a statement yesterday: “We are constrained to express grave concerns over the press statement attributed to Undersecretary of Health Mario Villaverde that the Department of Health will now promote the nationwide use of condoms, allegedly as a means to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

Condom use will not effectively protect one from contracting the virus, the prelate said, adding that a prophylactic is not 100 percent foolproof.

“It is the duty of the DOH never to propose for general public use any prophylactic that could increase the incidence of the disease it is supposed to prevent,” the archbishop said.

“It is, therefore, irresponsible, imprudent and dangerous for the department to declare that the use of the condom, without any change in unhealthy sexual behavior, will prevent seropositive cases from transmitting HIV/AIDS to their seronegative spouses,” he said.

In this case, we see two public entities, the government health agency and the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines conflicting over the control over the people’s private spheres. The former for reason of public health security as in the disease is difficult to contain once in its more advanced stage so finding ways for its prevention is a more rational approach; the latter, on the other hand, is vehemently against the use of condom in the grounds of morality.

I see it as a myopic vision of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. The prevalence of sex outside marriage, premarital sex, or other forms of “immoral” sexual activities such as homosexual acts might as well mirror its utter failure to educate Filipino morality, its failure to make its parishioners understand that sodomy will send those who practice the act to hell, its failure to do what it is primarily tasked to do–teach morality (but ended up moralizing).

Now it is embarking on a grander scheme of changing public policies as if these policies are their papal nuncios.

When will we start educating people to be responsible as regards sex when all the parishioners are already dying of AIDS?

It reminded me of a statement made by Friedrich Nietzsche a century ago:

There are people who want to make men’s lives more difficult for no other reason than the chance it provides them afterwards to offer their prescription for alleviating life; their Christianity, for instance.

Does this hold true? Does the opposition of the Catholic Church in the Philippines to legalize the use of artificial contraception to curb population explosion, which is one of the major reasons for the downward spiraling of not only the economy but also the standard of living of the Filipino family, an attempt to make the lives of each Filipino miserable just so the Church can show its charity? Funny. But with things going on now, nothing can be more true.

Does the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines to the use of condom to prevent AIDS a ploy to make the lost sheep find their shepherd, or so that the prodigal son can repent and the goodness of the father be exalted?

If we look at the issue in moral grounds, the Church will always have its way. 80 plus per cent of the voting population are adherents to Catholicism, at least as stated on their baptismal certificates. And the Church can always make use of this fact to pressure the Legislature, for 80 per cent of votes is enough for members of the Philippine legislature to deal with Satan (unintended pun) or the prelates.

If only we transcend the unwinnable moral ground and look at the rational side of the issue.

It is easier to convince a man to use condom (that is if it is available and he knows where to get it) whenever he wants to have sex than to convince him to abstain from having sex because his soul will burn in Hades.

It makes more sense to persuade an Overseas Filipino Worker to use condom while having sex in a faraway land than to tell him to be a good Christian and therefore must not have sex outside marriage.

It is more sensible to tell the youth to practice safe sex than to tell them that premarital sex is immoral for after all they will still do it.

The use of artificial methods to protect one from conceiving, sexually transmitted infection, or AIDS makes more sense than waiting in vain for the people to espouse the kind of morality taught by the church. It’ll never be a good idea to see people not following the Church’s teachings suffer from hunger because the family members are too many, from AIDS because he had sex with so many men, or poverty–all because of the absence of a clear-cut law on the production, distribution, and use of contraceptives in general. Hell has its proper place and proper time.

Let’s give them the choice.

My Thai friend emailed me this morning that her gay friend just died because of multiple organ failure last night, the usual result of AIDS.

Very usual.

WillyJ said...

Thanks for the comment.

Now that you've mentioned "Thailand’s rigorous campaign to use condom as protection from AIDS", lets examine the facts more closely.

The first AIDS case in Thailand was diagnosed in 1984, when a homosexual prostitute tested positive for the disease. Later it spread among the female and male prostitutes, and among intravenous drug users. The first AIDS case in the Philippines was also diagnosed in 1984. By 1987, there were 112 cases of HIV/AIDS infection in Thailand and 135 cases in the Philippines.

(In 1991 the World Health Organization (WHO) AIDS Program forecasted that by 1999 Thailand would have 60,000 to 80,000 cases, and that the Philippines would experience between 80,000 and 90,000 cases of HIV/AIDS. During that same year the Minister of Health of Thailand, Mr. Viravedya, launched "100% Condom Use Program". All brothels were required to stock a large supply of condoms, and condom vending machines appeared in supermarkets, bars and other public places. This initiative was widely accepted by the people of Thailand. From 1992 to 1996, the National AIDS program received dramatic increases in funding. The government provided it with more than $80 million annually by 1996. By 1999 the UNAIDS reported 755,000 total confirmed cases of HIV infection in Thailand-65,000 had died of the disease. That same year, in the Philippines, the total number of HIV cases was only 1,005. The disease had killed only 225 people.)

For 2007 figures in Thailand, about 1 million HIV cases are officially reported (out of 66 million people).

For 2007 (using WHO figures you quoted) in the Philippines, 7,490 HIV cases (out of 84 million people).

"Chinks in Thailand's Aids armour"

Meanwhile, Dr Somsong Rugpoa, who heads the Department of Communicative Disease Control at the Ministry of Health in Thailand,
said until the economy improves and allows a bigger budget, efforts must be made to find funding elsewhere.

He added talk of success in prevention campaigns was overshadowed by growing numbers of those infected.

"Each year we have a cumulative figure - that means the problem is bigger all the time," he said.

In short Thailand has less population, massive condom funding, massive advocacy. Yet HIV infections remain massive and on the rise. Hmm.

"makes sense" (?)

"If only we transcend the unwinnable moral ground and look at the rational side of the issue".

As there is no dichotomy between moral and rational, I am not sure I understand this statement...

"Lets give them a choice".

Sure, but was the choice taken away in the first place?

"My Thai friend emailed me this morning that her gay friend just died because of multiple organ failure last night, the usual result of AIDS."

Now this last statement, excuse me for saying so, completely contradicts everything you had to say.

Also, don't be too surprised that the Catholic Church "dares", it has always been daring all these 2000 years.

Still I appreciate your taking the time to analyze the issues in your own way, and hope that you will be open to studying the facts and issues more closely.